This summer I had the opportunity to hear both Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren speak to a room of grassroots activists from across the country. Warren delivered her usual stump-speech—rousing and effective. She detailed her phenomenal plans and exuded competence. Bernie, on the other hand, simply used his time to thank the activists for their hard work. Bernie didn’t seek to convince the people in the room; no matter who they were voting for, these activists were already part of Bernie’s political revolution. In that moment, I fully understood that Bernie’s vision extended far beyond the presidency. He is creating a grassroots movement dedicated to engendering true societal change. Their speeches struck such different tones, and this compelled me to consider the other differences between the two candidates. Indeed, both candidates would transform this country for the better, but it is Bernie’s movement, not Warren’s plans, that will be the antidote to Trumpism and to the greater corrupt and oppressive forces that have governed the United States for far too long.
It’s Bernie who unites people across race, religion, age, gender and region. The Sanders coalition is truly diverse—49 percent of Bernie supporters are white compared to 71 percent of Warren’s. At a recent rally at a historically black university in South Carolina, Warren handed out signs saying “African-Americans with Warren,” yet she spoke to a mostly white audience. At the same time, Bernie also appeals to the so called “white-working class” that has occupied our imaginations since the 2016 election. By the end of August, Bernie had raised double the amount raised by Warren, Biden and Buttigieg in counties that voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016—precisely the counties that must be won in order to defeat Trump. Bernie’s base is bolstered by nurses, teachers, waiters and police officers, whereas Warren has constructed a coalition dominated by white, college educated voters. Bernie’s ability to unify people across difference is especially poignant in a time where pundits often lament that America is more culturally divided than ever.
Bernie and Warren often use similar rhetoric, yet their policies indeed differ. Bernie is the only candidate thus far to have proposed universal school lunch, national rent control and a complete cancelation of student debt. Bernie’s wealth tax is also far more comprehensive than Warren’s. Bernie proposes an extra tax on wealth over $32 million, while Warren’s tax begins at $50 million. Furthermore, Warren proposes a flat three percent tax on net worth over one billion, whereas Bernie proposes a graduated system that goes up to an eight percent tax on wealth over $10 billion. It is no wonder some billionaires are falling in line behind Warren as a last defense against a Sanders presidency.
Bernie and Warren also have different perspectives on U.S. foreign policy—a distinction that must be emphasized given the president’s unfettered power as commander-in-chief. Bernie is the candidate thoroughly committed to ending America’s endless wars. He has openly criticized American military intervention for his entire career and is the only candidate who has voted against every single one of Trump’s proposed increases in military budget. His commitment to anti-imperialism has earned him the support of leaders throughout the world including San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who is now a co-chair of his campaign. Bernie is unafraid to call out human rights abuses even when coming from American allies. This is most notable in his unequivocal condemnation of Israel’s expansion into the West Bank. Meanwhile, Warren vocally supported Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip in 2014. Warren’s foreign policy plans criticize the military’s carbon footprint and the exorbitant cost of war, but she fails to acknowledge America’s history of human rights abuses and blatant violations of international law. On the other hand, Sanders is building a movement that spans far beyond American voters and American borders.
Sanders lost the election in 2016 but started a political revolution—one that is shaking communities across the U.S. and daring Americans to dream once again. Policies that once seemed impossible, like Medicare For All and free college are now mainstream positions within the Democratic Party due to his persistence. Immediately after the election, Sanders started Our Revolution, an organization dedicated to grassroots activism with chapters now in every single state in America. Furthermore, his unrelenting idealism has inspired countless young progressives to launch their own campaigns, resulting in a new vanguard of leadership such as U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. I am voting for Bernie because he generates hope in so many, even in the midst of these political dark ages. I am also voting for Bernie because he is the pragmatic choice. Almost every credible poll declares that Bernie can resoundingly defeat Trump. In fact, he is currently the only candidate polling ahead of Trump in Iowa.
The reality is that Bernie and Warren are rather different candidates; only in a country that lacks a serious left is it possible to conflate them. Warren is a ‘capitalist to her bones,’ while Bernie is a committed Democratic Socialist. Liz is a technocrat—she believes that select smart people in office will be able to reverse the destructive policies introduced by Trump. Bernie was birthed by movement culture; he believes in people power and collective action. His candidacy is a rousing call for mass mobilization that will continue far beyond Bernie’s first day in office. It is this type of diverse and committed coalition that will truly allow us to exorcise Trumpism and defeat the system that produced it. Only then can we truly begin to build anew.